Wednesday, 15 July 2015

"very happy to acknowledge that my involvement has not been at Stratheden Hospital" says MSP Liz Smith (& my response)

Liz Smith MSP web page
I wrote to my regional MSP this morning 15 July 2015, about the Courier article 'MSP demands full T in the Park review, claiming “public safety was compromised” in move to Strathallan', saying:

"This is commendable.

However as a mother and carer who has had to singlehandedly campaign about the human rights abuse that was going on in Stratheden Hospital's IPCU, to patients, and to my son in particular, in February 2012, I am very unhappy that you haven't been so concerned about the safety of psychiatric patients in your regional constituency.  

For years they were using a locked seclusion room with no toilet, no water to drink, light switch outside, to "manage" the patients.  I won an Ombudsman's case against NHS Fife in September 2014, after 30 months of complaining.  Scottish Government awarded £4.4 million to NHS Fife to build a new IPCU.  My son and I got nothing in the way of compensation for the abuse.  Although attempts were made to blame me for it all.

For your information, I will be standing as an independent candidate at the next Scottish parliamentary elections, May 2016, in NE Fife and in the Mid-Scotland and Fife region.  So as to have a voice in parliament for people who have been forcibly and dehumanisingly treated in psychiatric settings, for unwaged carers and for parity of esteem between physical and mental health services.

I am copying my own MSP Rod Campbell and Dr Richard Simpson MSP into this Email.  Mr Campbell has taken an interest in my case, has written letters on my behalf and met with me.  He has visited Stratheden Hospital on a number of occasions and he has listened to what I have had to say.  Which is much more than can be said about you and some of the other regional MSPs.  Apart from Dr Simpson MSP who has spoken out in parliament on mental health matters for many years and will unfortunately be retiring next year.  I am sorry to see him go."


Ms Smith responded, saying:

"Thank you for your email.

I am sorry you believe that I have been inactive on psychiatric care issues which, is not, in fact, at all accurate. However, I am very happy to acknowledge that my involvement has not been at Stratheden Hospital."

This response from Ms Smith I found to be both patronising and dismissive so I replied:

"Ms Smith thank you for responding.

I am not sure why you are "very happy" to acknowledge your lack of involvement at Stratheden Hospital.  That is nothing to be proud or happy about.  In my opinion.  I think it demonstrates arrogance and a patronising attitude.

The point I made was about Stratheden which is in your regional area.  Decades of psychiatric abuse.  Nothing for anyone to be proud of.  Particularly if you have been a public servant as long as you have, since 2007.  

I notice that you have responsibility within your party for Education and Lifelong Learning.  I suggest therefore that you get up to speed about ALL the psychiatric and mental health settings in the area for which you are an MSP.  For the sake of patients and their carers.

My professional and experiential background is community work, for over 30yrs.  In a variety of settings.  Having been born and raised in Perth, a pupil at Perth Academy in the 1960's, like my mother and father before me.  Qualifications in Community Education and FE Lecturing, care subjects.  I was always a grassroots development worker, in South Lanarkshire, Fife and Perth workplaces.

In my opinion, a person like me who has experienced grassroots activism, living on a low income and living in a council house scheme, would be well suited for standing as a regional MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife.  For after all there are many more people now on the breadline especially now with the Tories in power, pushing austerity.  I voted for independence at the Referendum and want to see home rule because I think it would be fairer for Scotland.  Rather than getting the worst of it from a government which takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

My father worked in London, as a sci-fi writer with the Daily Express, 1956-69, died there in 1986.  I like the capital but it is far removed from our Scottish way of life.  We are a nation of storytellers, singers, creatives, entrepreneurs and thinkers outside of the box.  For too long we have played second fiddle.  Which is OK for a time. 

Regards, Chrys"

the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee: pushing ECT on female patients; polypharmacy; NMD - going backwards not forwards

Here is an Email I've just sent to psychiatrists and nurse lecturers in Dundee, 14 July 2015:

Strapline: the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee: pushing ECT on female patients; polypharmacy; NMD - going backwards not forwards

ACING page of Dundee Advanced Interventions Service website

"Dear Psychiatrists and Nurse Lecturers in Dundee

I am writing to you with my concerns about the dominance of biological psychiatry in Dundee which results in the pushing of ECT on to patients, particularly women.  The polypharmacy used in Carseview Centre to "manage" the patients and the rooms set aside in Ward One for NMD or brain surgery for mental illness.  (I am continually being scapegoated, excluded from stakeholder groups for not toeing the line and doing what I'm told so have to agitate from the outside)

I know that female patients are being pressurised to have ECT when in Carseview as if it was the best thing since sliced bread.  I know this because I've heard it from the patients and from the nurses who say they would have it if mentally unwell (huh I don't believe it).  It makes me very angry to hear this because I believe, along with the feminist academic Bonnie Burstow, Ontario, Canada, that ECT is the "gentleman's way to batter women".  Strong words but with truth in them.  I speak out from experience, having avoided ECT in 1978, Hartwoodhill, by running out of the ward in my pyjamas, supported by my husband.  Female patients were queuing up for it back then, asking for it.  By 1984 there wasn't the same push for ECT.  Although in Carseview and maybe Tayside the push is still there.  ECT which causes memory loss and brain cell damage, like a knock on the head, new pain for old.

As you will be aware, I have a page on my main blog devoted to Dr Christmas's MD NMD thesis where I am slowly but surely working my way through the 421 or so pages with a critical and opposite viewpoint.  That ECT/NMD does not "save" lives and that psychiatrists are not gods.  (I lump shock treatment and brain surgery together because they are inter-related, brain focused)  Death is inevitable and psychiatry hasn't managed to halt the dying process even if some psychiatrists are deluded into thinking they have the power over life and death. 

I am very annoyed at the cocktails of psychiatric drugs used in Carseview on patients, in the IPCU and in the other wards.  I met twice with Dr Gupta to challenge this way of working and he said that their use of polypharmacy was "historical".  In other words they have always done it that way, I suppose he meant.  The psychiatrists continually over-prescribe psychotropic drugs to vulnerable mental patients.  If they have a side effect with one drug then they give the patient another drug for the side effect which in turn produces more side effects.  Soon the patient is disabled and asking for a depot injection because they can't manage the proliferation of pills they are told to swallow.  It's disgraceful and makes me very angry, and upset, to hear people having to be injected with drugs.  Being disabled by the system.  For no good reason.

If the drugs don't work then the drugs don't work, to alleviate mental distress or side effects from other drugs.  Stop pushing drugs onto patients and disabling them, which for some people, if they don't take away the anguish, makes them desperate enough to ask for brain surgery to relieve the suffering.  It's all about the pain but doing more damage to the person, invading their body and brain, cannot be the best way of doing things.  It's a downward spiral for some people towards ever more invasive treatment which is risky and irreversible.  Why should some people have to bear the brunt of a failed drug paradigm?  The mantra of mental illness used as a smokescreen to cover the fact that the drugs don't work.

I've always known the game was a bogey, that mental illness was a psychiatric construct to cover the failures in the paradigm.  Because of the way that my mother was treated in Murray Royal Hospital in the 1950's and 1960's.  She got the same treatment as everyone else.  Forced ECT, many courses of it, and no doubt also Chlorpromazine which came in around 1952, the year I was born.  Which meant my mother always resisted going into the mental hospital.  The family were distressed at having to send her there because there were no other options available.  And the same is still true.  Biological psychiatry, forced drug treatment or nothing, if you experience altered mind states, psychoses, due to the pain of life.  In 60yrs of psychotropic drugs we are no further forward, in fact have gone backwards if having to yet again resort to fiddling in the brains of mentally distressed people. 

I escaped lifelong mental illness prognoses by not believing a word of it even if the disorder label (schizoaffective) still sits in my notes to mark me out, to stigmatise and discriminate against me.  I escaped mental illness 3 times and it was easier back in 1978 and 1984 to leave psychiatry behind.  I was even helped by a community psychiatrist who came to my house in 1985, Rigside, Lanarkshire, supporting me in my plans to taper the Chlorpromazine and be off it within the year.  Because I was determined to do it, had done it after the earlier puerperal psychosis.  But in 2002 I was eventually made to take a drug cocktail of Risperidone, Venlafaxine and Lithium.  There was coercion because of my lack of agency due to antipsychotics being forced on to me in Lomond Ward, Stratheden, the week I was a mental patient in around March 2002.  A 72hr detention because I was resistant.  They forced me and took away my agency.  It took me around 2yrs to get back the strength to taper and make a full recovery.

Prof Ian Reid (I called him the king of ECT) used to say to me that my family was "different", in terms of my recovery and others in my family recovering from mental illness.  But I think that's a cop out, as if the exception proves the rule or "the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted".  I maintain that my recovery in 2004 was due to the fact that I didn't believe in mental illness and got off the drugs under my own steam.  Because they were disabling me.  I have a 6in metal plate in my right fibula because of Venlafaxine, being on maximum doses in my 50's, causing bone loss.  That drug also caused me suicidal impulse, I swallowed a bottle of them at one point and was rushed to Ninewells in an ambulance on oxygen.  I had never before in my life been suicidal, or since.  A very scary side effect.  I hold psychiatry responsible for not alerting me to the dangers of this antidepressant. prior to being prescribed them.

It is way beyond time that we looked for alternative ways of working with people in mental distress that doesn't just mean forcing drugs into them, prolifically, using nurses to do the business at the sharp edge.  Nurses are people too and should be trained in a range of skills so as to engage with patients in distress, to have time to listen and to be with the person/patient, rather than just be enforcers of drugs.  That is demeaning to the nursing profession in psychiatric settings.  They, along with the people they treat, are being dehumanised in the process.  It is not fair on them or on us, the people accessing psychiatric inpatient treatment and the carers, family members, having to pick up the pieces.

I want to see Dundee psychiatrists and nurse lecturers consider ways in which they/you might start to shift the paradigm, and the focus, away from drugs and towards a range of therapies so that there is no recourse to either ECT or NMD. Reducing the "unmet need" by tackling the issue at the root rather than at the stem or fruit.  It's a matter of getting your heads together and redesigning the process, involving critical voices and sceptics, so as to be ahead of the game and focusing on the whole person not just their brain.

I hope this helps in changing the discourse or at the very least brings some light into the discussions.
Yours faithfully,


'More Harm Than Good: Confronting the Psychiatric Medication Epidemic' Conference 18 September 2015 London:

"The Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry invites you to join global leaders in the critical psychiatry movement for a one-day conference which will address an urgent public health issue: the iatrogenic harm caused by the over-prescription of psychiatric medications. 

There is clear evidence that these drugs cause more harm than good over the long term, and can damage patients and even shorten their lives. Yet why are these medications so popular? What harms are they causing? What can be done to address the problem."


blog post 20 April 2015: Dear Prof Matthews: why are female patients in Carseview Centre Dundee being put under pressure to have ECT? (no response from the Professor, yet)

on Mad in America 8 December 2014: Spearheading Doctors and the Re-introduction of Electroconvulsive Therapy for Children


blog post 6 September 2014: Tayside Carers Support Project (Support in Mind Scotland) Newsletter with ECT piece

my comment: "Electroconvulsive Therapy is a contentious treatment because it consists of an electric shock to the brain, performed under anaesthetic, causing a fit to the person, and doctors still don't know how it works.  And it doesn't cure anything, rather it causes short term memory loss and also longer term memory loss for some people."

blog post 1 September 2014: Dear Support in Mind Scotland please present a balanced view of ECT and try not to be patronising 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

'Nicola Sturgeon helps mark Stratheden Hospital improvements milestone' @thecourieruk 7 July 2015

'Nicola Sturgeon helps mark Stratheden Hospital improvements milestone' by Michael Alexander, Fife chief reporter, in The Courier 7 July 2015:

"A milestone in the construction of the new £4.4 million intensive psychiatric care unit (IPCU) at Stratheden Hospital near Cupar was reached when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined NHS Fife chief executive Paul Hawkins in a sod-cutting ceremony.

Construction of the eight-bed IPCU is the latest phase of works to modernise large areas of the hospital, which cares for patients with mental illness from across Fife.

The building will include a communal lounge and rooms for rehabilitative and therapeutic activities.

Patients will each have single en-suite bedrooms, offering more privacy, while there will also be access to an outdoor courtyard and private meeting rooms for visits from family or friends.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This unit is the latest in a series of improvements to modernise the hospital which cares for people from across Fife.

“The Scottish Government is investing over £2 billion in Scotland’s health infrastructure over the spending review period, with this development being one of many that demonstrate the Scottish Government’s commitment to continually improving health services.

“Mental health services are an absolute priority of this Government and we have been investing heavily for a number of years in mental health provision.

“We have also recently announced our £100 million Mental Health Innovation fund, which is targeting additional investment over the next five years. This new funding will make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Mr Hawkins said: “Improving mental health facilities is one of NHS Fife’s key priorities and a great deal of work has been undertaken over recent years to modernise much of the Stratheden Hospital site.

“We are determined that our patients receive the highest quality care in modern, safe, secure and therapeutic environments.”

Ms Sturgeon also visited Elmwood College golf course, where she learned about a US summer student exchange programme under way. She celebrated “all the good things” about Fife.

From there she visited Cupar Youth Cafe with Louise Macdonald from Young Scot, to publicise the i-Rights initiative to protect young people online.

She also met with some of the young people who attend the Youth Cafe and heard about the work of the centre."


and my comment on this Courier piece:

"As an unwaged carer, writer and mental health campaigner who has been campaigning for improvements to the care of patients at Stratheden Hospital, since 2012, I was encouraged to see the First Minister visit the hospital and take part in the sod-cutting ceremony.

My youngest son was subject to unreasonable treatment in the Stratheden IPCU, February 2012, and I raised complaints with NHS Fife and Fife Council, eventually taking my complaint against the health board to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.  And in September 2014 my complaint was upheld.

I attended yesterday evening's Cabinet Ministers meeting in Bell Baxter High School where my youngest son was a prefect 2000-2.  My two older sons were also pupils there.  Last night I was given the opportunity to ask a question of Nicola Sturgeon about government support for carers and parity of esteem for mental health care, to bring it up to the same funding levels of physical health care.

Because of the difficulties I have experienced, in respect of having to singlehandedly raise complaints and campaign for justice in mental health matters, I have decided to stand as an independent candidate at next year's Scottish Parliamentary elections."